The language of a virus

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Summary

Uncovering connections between seemingly unrelated branches of science might accelerate research in one branch by using the methods developed in the other branch as stepping stones. On page 284 of this issue, Hie et al. (1) provide an elegant example of such unexpected connections. The authors have uncovered a parallel between the properties of a virus and its interpretation by the host immune system and the properties of a sentence in natural language and its interpretation by a human. By leveraging an extensive natural language processing (NLP) toolbox (2, 3) developed over the years, they have come up with a powerful new method for the identification of mutations that allow a virus to escape from recognition by neutralizing antibodies.

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